Institute for Advanced Learning and Research holds first Controlled Environment Agriculture Summit
DANVILLE, Va. (WDBJ) - The CEA Summit East is the first of its kind on the east coast, bringing together hundreds of indoor farmers from all over the country.
The CEA Summit East took place at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research Tuesday and Wednesday.
Over 200 members of the controlled environment agriculture industry from 28 states were there to network and learn more about indoor farming.
Virginia’s Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Matthew Lohr was the keynote speaker Wednesday.
“We’re bringing everyone to the table to learn and grow and network and see how we can work together and highlight Virginia,” said Lohr. “Governor Youngkin’s goal was for us to be the number one state in the country for indoor farming. I think having a large conference like this on the east coast in Virginia really highlights where we are and the potential we have.”
Another highlight of the summit was to show the benefits of indoor farming.
“The benefits of controlled environment agriculture include less pesticides or no pesticides, in some cases, the fertilizers, the food that you get really clean,” explained Scott Lowman, vice president of research at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research. “Consumers are demanding clean food.”
Lohr says the pandemic increased that demand for clean food.
“The controlled environment agriculture space really highlights that because we’re producing food locally. We control all of the elements of the food, the inputs, it’s tastier, healthier and safer and it’s close by. I think that the pandemic certainly highlighted the awareness and the importance of being able to have indoor growing of food,” added Lohr.
He says traditional farming is still critical to the economy.
“As we look at the indoor production of food, mostly produce and lettuces and fruits, we can do that inside very efficiently. But, we’re still going to need cornfields, soybean fields, wheat fields and cattle grazing. All of that is still going to be very important. So, we’re not replacing traditional agriculture. We’re trying to bring and highlight the indoor growing of certain food products to Virginia,” said Lohr.
They plan to host an even bigger summit again next year.
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